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Tech from Nature: Ceramics Mimic Mother-of-Pearl

Abalone Nacre

abalone shell magnified

(Image credit: Sylvain Deville)

A close look at nacre, or mother-of-pearl, in an abalone shell, a type of marine mollusk. [Read More: Mother-of-Pearl Inspires New Ceramics]

Stacked Nacre

nacre stacks

(Image credit: Sylvain Deville)

The stacked arrangement of nacre makes it incredibly strong, because cracks cannot travel in a straight line through the material.

Abalone Nacre Close

nacre stacks close up

(Image credit: Sylvain Deville)

Nacre is made of calcium carbonate mortared together with organic proteins.

Real and Synthetic Nacre

real and synthetic nacre

(Image credit: Florian Bouville)

A comparison of real nacre (top) and a ceramic made to mimic natural mother-of-pearl.

Crack Path

circuitous crack through ceramic

(Image credit: Florian Bouville)

This low-magnification image shows the circuitous route a crack must take through the synthetic mother-of-pearl material.

Magnified Crack

magnified crack in ceramic

(Image credit: Florian Bouville)

A crack must zig-zag its way through the stacked platelets in the new ceramic.